When a player comes up with a good idea or a clever plan, the DM often awards experience points, or XP, to the player for a job well done, but what if the player does something that can be directly translated into other types of rewards? XP leads to leveling up, but that might not be accurate to what happens in reality. So while it isn’t logical that the XP one gets for fighting orcs with a longsword, for example, should lead to that person gaining a greater skill in bow making, or leather working, which is exactly what happens when one levels up. You get a certain number of skill points that can be distributed as the player sees fit. Telling the player they must select certain skills when they level is not really a reward at all, it’s a restriction.
DMs have the power to give rewards in any way they see fit. This is not restricted to the doling of XP. Rewards can come in many forms. Treasures, magic, blessings, XP, and so forth are freely and quite regularly given to the characters whose players are clever, noble, or otherwise efficient in their duties. But what about, skills? When you as the DM witness a character performing on skill effectively in an adventure, or applying a skill to its optimum potential, why not award an extra skill point? Skills and feats in D&D are given upon the acquisition of a level, but as the rules state, the DM has the ultimate authority. Skills that aren’t used can equally be taken away if atrophied, but let’s not talk about that right now.
In a recent game of traveler, a game in which characters do NOT level up, a player displayed an example of supreme tactical insight. I, the GM, thought to myself that it’s such a shame that I can’t give XP awards and actually made a little joke about it. Then it hit me, I’ll just give partial skill level advancements as the players use their skills well and wisely. I gave the player a .1 point in tactics military for the idea. My advice is of course, not to go crazy with this idea, but give credit where credit is due and actually give the players a good reason to use their skills and not just their swords and spells.
Author: Dr. Jeff Goins is the Founder and CEO of Dwarven Tavernwww.dwarventavern.net. He writes lots of tombs, carves articles of stones, and publishes a wealth of knowledge. His latest books include Dwarven Tavern Short Hooks and Quick Start Story Ideas, Growing Up Haunted: The Tollgate, and Life In The Shadows.